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Environmental Policy

GMO Labeling to Go Before Voters in California
May 3, 2012 01:34 PM - Georgina Gustin, Strait to the Source, Organic Consumers Association

It doesn't take an agricultural expert to know that you can't grow vegetables without water. So it wasn't surprising that after hundreds of people marching under the banner "Occupy the Farm" took over a University of California (UC) agricultural testing station on April 22, UC officials responded by shutting off water to the site. The next day, a late-season storm brought a half-inch of rain to the San Francisco Bay Area, irrigating the thousands of vegetable starts in the ground and lifting the spirits of the urban farming activists who are determined to save the site from development. Score: Occupiers, 1 - UC administrators, 0. Social change activists in Berkeley, Calif., have always been ahead of the curve. Today, May Day, is the spring reemergence for the Occupy movement as activists around the United States engage in work stoppages, street marches, and various forms of civil disobedience to press their demands for a more equitable economy. The folks with Occupy the Farm got started early. On Earth Day, they marched from Berkeley's Ohlone Park to a five-acre plot of land in the adjacent bedroom community of Albany. They cut the locks on the gates of the UC-Berkeley and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) field trial plot, pulled up nearly an acre of thick mustard growing there, and got busy working the soil with a pair of rented rototillers. Then, scores of volunteers planted 150-foot rows of lettuce, beans, cucumbers, and leafy greens. By the end of Earth Day, the Bay Area had a new urban farm.

Biodiversity loss significant impact on ecosystems
May 3, 2012 07:16 AM - Click Green Staff, ClickGreen

Loss of biodiversity appears to affect ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress, according to results of a new study by an international research team. The study is the first comprehensive effort to directly compare the effects of biological diversity loss to the anticipated effects of a host of other human-caused environmental changes. The results, published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, highlight the need for stronger local, national and international efforts to protect biodiversity and the benefits it provides, according to the researchers, who are based at nine institutions in the United States, Canada and Sweden.

Australia lists koalas as 'vulnerable'
May 2, 2012 06:19 AM - Editor, ARKive.org

The koala has been listed as a threatened species in parts of Australia due to its shrinking population, according to officials. One of Australia's most iconic marsupials, the koala is facing a range of threats, including habitat loss, urban expansion, dog attacks, vehicle collisions and disease. Its specialised diet of eucalyptus leaves confines it to quite specific habitats, while increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may be reducing the nutrient content of the leaves it eats. Climate change is also increasing the risk of drought and fires, with koalas being particularly vulnerable to bushfires as their slow movements and tree-dwelling lifestyle make it difficult for them to escape.

Ford to EV Dealers: Meet Environmental Requirements
May 1, 2012 08:55 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

An environmentally friendly car dealership? Like "responsible drinking," or "Walmart organic food," that term at first may sound like an oxymoron. Ford Motor, however, is not only rolling out new electric vehicles (EVs), but has committed to greening its entire supply chain. This is just one example of the changes Detroit is undergoing as the Big Three rack up impressive quarterly numbers. For now, EVs are only a small part of the auto industry's resurgence as they slowly win acceptance from skeptical commuters. To that end, Ford is requiring its dealerships selling EVs to resemble businesses that would sell...EVs.

Caribbean biodiversity and the Mongoose
May 1, 2012 06:55 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

In a single paper in Zootaxa scientists have rewritten the current understanding of lizard biodiversity in the Caribbean. By going over museum specimens of skinks, scientists have discovered 24 new species and re-established nine species previously described species, long-thought invalid. The single paper has increased the number of skinks in the Caribbean by 650 percent, from six recognized species to 39. Unfortunately, half of these new species may already be extinct and all of them are likely imperiled. "Now, one of the smallest groups of lizards in this region of the world has become one of the largest groups," co-author Blair Hedges with Penn State University said in a press release. Hedges and his team determined the new species through morphological research as well as DNA studies.

Wind Turbines found to create local warming
April 30, 2012 06:37 AM - Sid Perkins, Science

Large wind farms can substantially influence local climate, most notably by boosting nighttime temperatures, a new study suggests. Utilizing the same analytical techniques used to discern temperature trends in urban heat islands, researchers scrutinized satellite images of a 10,000-square-kilometer area of west-central Texas, home to four of the world's largest wind farms (turbines near Fluvanna, Texas, shown). The team's analyses revealed that in the 9-year period from 2003 through 2011, when more than 95% of the turbines in the area were erected, the average nighttime land-surface temperature during summer months in areas where wind farms were located increased by 0.65°C more than did temperatures in nearby areas without wind turbines.

Rio+20 Sustainable Development Talks too Focused on Technology?
April 28, 2012 08:07 AM - Aisling Irwin, SciDevNet

The conviction that new technologies will solve the world's environmental and social problems has overly dominated early negotiations leading up to the Rio+20 summit in Brazil in June, a UN General Assembly meeting has heard. Mentions of technology were "almost endless" in the first draft of the outcome document, known as the 'zero draft', according to Pat Mooney, executive director of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), a non-governmental organisation based in Canada.

Garbage Trek
April 27, 2012 12:41 PM - Editor, ENN

Waste is directly linked to human development, both technological and social. The compositions of different wastes have varied over time and location, with industrial development and innovation being directly linked to waste materials. Waste is sometimes a subjective concept, because items that some people discard may have value to others. Americans generate more trash than anyone else on the planet: more than 7 pounds per person each day. About 69 percent of that trash goes immediately into landfills. And most landfill trash is made up of containers and packaging — almost all of which should be recycled, says Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes.

Palm oil is a major driver of peatlands destruction in Indonesian Borneo
April 27, 2012 09:38 AM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Developers in Indonesian Borneo are increasingly converting carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, driving deforestation and boosting greenhouse gas emissions, reports a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research concludes that nearly all unprotected forests in Ketapang District in West Kalimantan will be gone by 2020 given current trends. The study, which was led by Kim Carlson of Yale and Stanford University, is based on comprehensive socioeconomic surveys, high-resolution satellite imagery, and carbon mapping of the Ketapang, which is home to some of the most biodiverse forests on the planet including those of Gunung Palung National Park.

What’s Undermining Energy Efficiency?
April 27, 2012 07:26 AM - Elisa Wood , Clean Techies

Exhilaration swept through the energy efficiency industry as city after city, state after state and nation after nation set aggressive energy saving goals over the last several years. But with target dates nearing in certain jurisdictions, a more sober attitude now permeates. Some governments are asking: Are we reaching too high? A global report issued this week by PwC, which looks into the minds of power industry executives, suggests the worry may be justified. Called "The shape of power to come," the annual report emerged from interviews with senior executives at 72 power companies in 43 countries. It found that a good number (45%) of executives are dubious that we will reach energy efficiency targets by 2030.

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